Dr. Elizabeth Fain, the founding director of the Master of Science in Occupational Therapy (MSOT) program at Pfeiffer University, has been named a Roster of Fellows awardee by the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA). The Roster of Fellows award is among the most prestigious honors that AOTA can confer on an occupational therapist (OT). Fain is scheduled to receive it in April at the 2021 AOTA Annual Conference & Expo in San Diego.
“It has been very exciting,” Fain said of winning the award. “It’s such a big deal. It will certainly help with recruitment of faculty and students for the MSOT program at Pfeiffer. And, being able to say that the program director here at Pfeiffer has achieved such a status will strengthen our case with the accreditation reviewers.”
The reviewers are from the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE), an arm of the AOTA. If they grant accreditation to MSOT, which started operating on a provisional “candidacy status” basis this past summer, Pfeiffer’s first OT students will graduate in December 2022, and they will sit in January 2023 for a national certification examination administered by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy.
Established in 1973, the Roster of Fellows award has recognized those OTs who “have made a significant contribution over time to the profession with a measured impact on consumers of occupational therapy services and/or members of AOTA.”
Fain holds several degrees, including a Doctor of Education with emphasis on developing health education curriculum from the University of St. Augustine (2014) and Education Specialist Degree in adult education from Appalachian State University (2009). In 1981, she earned a Bachelor of Science in Occupational Therapy from Medical College of Georgia, and eight years later, she earned a Master of Health Science in Curriculum, Health Administration and Occupational Therapy Clinical Skills from Medical University of South Carolina.
Fain has made her mark as an OT educator. In January 2019, she started working at Pfeiffer, where she’s also Assistant Dean for Applied Health Sciences. Prior to that, she held positions at several other schools and clinical settings, most recently Winston-Salem State University.
Fain has assumed many roles in service to AOTA. She’s been a knowledge translation toolkit reviewer (the toolkit is a journal club for promoting OT research). She’s served as a research coordinator for both the Productive Aging Specialist Interest Section (SIS) of AOTA and the Academic Education SIS. And she’s been a contributor for AOTA’s “Choosing Wisely Physical Agent Modalities” which is a practice guide that OTs can use for making best-practice decisions for modalities pertaining to heat packs, ultrasound, and paraffinas well as electrical stimulation for treatment of pain, stiffness, and muscle weakness. She has promoted best practices to support children with hearing impairments and other disabilities. She has served as a frequent reviewer for AOTA conference proposals, and she’s also served as a Roster Accreditation Evaluation reviewer for ACOTE.
Fain was the Secretary of the Virginia State Occupational Association. Joined by Dr. Karen Jacobs of Boston University, she travelled to China as an ambassador for the People to People International Travel Programs.
Fain’s other accomplishments have emerged in the following categories:
Fain’s advocacy is illustrated by her roles as an e-advisor for Novant Health; as a board member for both Amos Cottage Children’s Rehabilitation and for the Helping Hands 3D project; and as a certified Therapy Dog International Handler. She’s also served as Vice President for the Treacher Collins Foundation.
Fain has promoted occupational therapy’s contributions to society through grant-funded engagement with various entities, including the Community Care Clinic of Winston-Salem (2015-2019); the Islamic Relief United States, and Education for Providers for Home Modifications for Habitat for Humanity, which works to modify homes to facilitate aging in place.
Fain has extended her advocacy globally through her engagement in international fieldwork in Ecuador. There, her students, working with Ecuadoreans, taught such professional skills as splinting and therapeutic interventions. They also promoted diversity and cultural inclusion strategies - all with limited resources.
Fain’s goal of engaging students in client-centered learning across diverse ethnic and cultural populations is one of her top priorities. As Pfeiffer’s MSOT founding director, she recruited an inaugural class with above-average diversity in the students’ ages, ethnic backgrounds and genders.
Fain pursues a diversity of scholarly work, which includes examining the benefits of service-learning for first-year occupational therapy students; examining perceptions of frailty in older adults participating in OT community education; and looking at the effect of early-learning initiative art programs for disadvantaged Latino preschool children.
She’s also evaluated the relationship of neurocognitive function to grip strength among the elderly; the use of Integra© in coverage of radial forearm free flap donor site defect; and the relationship of preferred learning styles on questioning taxonomies for occupational therapy faculty.
Fain has published scholarly articles in multiple journals and textbooks, including Adult Physical Conditions: Intervention Strategies for Occupational Therapist Assistants and Best Practice in School Based Occupational Therapy. Her presentations include “H.O.T. (Higher Order Thinking): Innovative Pedagogy for Student Success!”; “Making Connections: Linking the Distinct Value of Intercultural Learning and Global Understanding to Student Experiential Outcomes”; and “Aging in Place, A Course on Accessibility, Fall Prevention, Adaptive Equipment and Spirituality for Seniors in the Community.”
“Beth is eager to learn and eager to help others learn and understand things,” said Maribeth Gianguili, a former OT coworker of Fain’s. “She is a very perceptive and intuitive person. I admire the way in which she embodies what an OT can be: selfless, knowledgeable, and always in pursuit of making a greater difference.”
Fain, a respected and widely praised mentor, helps further the professional development of others by sharing her immense body of knowledge.
A beneficiary of Fain’s mentorship is Brenda Kennell, MS, OTR/L, FAOTA, who serves as the program director of Occupational Therapy Assistance at Central Piedmont Community College.
“In Dr. Fain, you have a faculty member who is dedicated to ensuring excellence in the Occupational Therapy program,” she said. “She is a lifelong learner who is committed to providing the best education possible to her students and preparing them to be principled, qualified practitioners of the future.”
Another beneficiary of Fain’s mentoring works with her in the MSOT program at Pfeiffer. She is Dr. Susan Blair, OTD, OTR/L, BCPR, BCG.
“My own relationship with Dr. Fain, as my mentor, has been extraordinary,” Blair said. “I came to Pfeiffer University as a seasoned clinician, but with very limited academic teaching knowledge.”
“She has mentored me in the basics of program development, course design, rubric creation, professional skills building, teaching philosophy development, and other soft skills not taught in my OTD degree program. Through her mentorship, I have exponentially improved my ability to increase creative student engagement, establish quality competency, promote active learning, and implement effective pedagogies.”
“Dr. Fain has mentored me in scholarly pursuits, supporting my study on the Perceptions of Frailty in Community Dwelling Older Adults, a valuable study for rural, disadvantaged older adults who had limited access to health education about frailty.”
Pfeiffer University would like to commend Dr. Fain on receiving this prestigious recognition and looks forward to the growth of the MSOT program.
Ken Keuffel, who authored this article, has served as Pfeiffer’s Assistant Director of Communications since December 2019. He welcomes story ideas from Pfeiffer’s faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends. The form for submitting story ideas is at www.pfeiffer.edu/newsform.